For many B.C. businesses who’ve had to temporarily close their doors due to COVID-19, the government’s plan to restart the economy seems daunting. After all, this is uncharted territory, and there’s no universal playbook for how to reopen a business in the midst of a pandemic. If you’re not sure where to begin, consider this checklist to help get your business back on track.
1. Asses your financials
Even if you’ve managed to stay partially open during the pandemic, it’s likely your revenue has taken a big hit (and your overhead costs may still be the same). Before you ramp up, take a hard look at your finances and determine if restarting up your business is viable.
- Update your financial statements. Look at your balance sheet and cash flow statements compare them to last year for a true look at how strong your business was before COVID-19.
- Look at other ways your business may have been affected. For example, have you had to lay off employees, or reduce your advertising and marketing budget? These are items you’ll have to account for in your rebuilding plan.
2. Draft a new business plan
The world looks different now, and what your customers want from you going forward may look quite different than it did a few months ago. Changing your company’s structure might not be your first choice, but it could be what keeps you in business. Need help? Small Business BC offers resources and advice to help you get started.
- Determine your competitive advantage. How has your industry been affected by the pandemic? See how your competitors have responded and focus on trends and opportunities that may have arisen. Identifying a gap or a need that your business can meet could be key to building your customer base.
- Be ready to pivot. Are there ways you can pivot your company’s expertise into a better revenue stream? Finding ways to diversify revenue means you may have to adapt your business model to change what you sell, who you sell it to and how you sell it. Once you’re ready to pivot, Vancity can support with the new Unity Pivot Business loan.
- Create or expand your online presence. If you previously relied on foot traffic, you may need to minimize your focus on bricks and mortar and establish an online presence (or grow your existing one). During the pandemic, many businesses have been getting by with increased e-commerce sales using platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce or Squarespace. If the pandemic has shown us one thing, it’s that people are changing the way they shop – and how businesses serve them.
Tip: Be sure to first read WorkSafeBC’s six-step COVID-19 Safety Plan when drafting your business plan. You want to make sure you consider any new expenses to stay compliant.
3. Access funding to get working capital
Now that you’ve created a business plan, you may need help funding it. Unless you had a large amount of cash on hand going into the COVID-19 shutdown, you’ll likely need some working capital to help your business get restarted – and keep it going. Keep in mind that there are a number of business support measures available.
- Take advantage of federal support. Support measures for small and medium businesses like the EDC Loan Guarantee and the BDC Co-Lending Program are outlined in the federal government’s Business Credit Availability Program. You can also consider a loan through the Canada Emergency Business Account (If you are eligible for this program, you can apply for this through Vancity).
- Look at new sources of capital. The Federal Government is offering the CEBA loan of $40,000 for businesses of varying sizes. Vancity also offers two new loan programs: the Unity Pivot Business loan (if you’ve decided to evolve your business) or the Unity Bridge loan (if you’re looking to bridge the income gap). They also offer other business loans and flexible financing solutions like business lines of credit and business credit availability programs.
4. Find other ways to boost your cash flow
Improving and maintaining your cash flow is crucial to helping you keep your business going.
- Conduct a cash flow analysis. Calculate incoming and outgoing cash for the previous six months (when you were in business). Lowering what you expect (“stress testing”), and making adjustments will help you plan going forward.
- Look for rent relief. Rent is probably your largest fixed expense – and missing a payment could spell disaster for your business.Start by negotiating with your landlord, but be sure you understand the nitty-gritty details outlined in your lease terms and your contractual obligations as a tenant. There’s also help available through the Canadian Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance – a government loan program designed to help businesses afford rent.
- Work with existing vendors or suppliers, or shop around. Look for ways to negotiate payments, new terms, which could lead to being able to take longer to pay suppliers might be some ways to hold onto working capital. Communication with suppliers is key. See if you can find a better price or terms by researching a new vendor or supplier.
- Send out invoices immediately. The quicker you send them out, the faster you’ll get paid. Consider switching to a cloud-based app; software like Intuit QuickBooks Online has great invoicing capabilities that can help speed up your invoicing process.
- Get customers to pay on time. Follow up your invoice with a reminder, give customers an incentive to pay early or on time (even a 2% incentive can help), and charge a late payment penalty.
- Switch to electronic payments. Setting up credit card and e-transfer options come at a cost, but they’ll make it easier for clients to pay more quickly.
5. Make physical changes that restore trust
The most important change your employees and customers will expect to see is how you’ve adapted your physical space to encourage social distancing. This means you’ll likely have to limit the number of people allowed into your business at one time, and you’ll probably have to re-think your physical setup (whether that’s workspaces, displays or desks.)
- Actively promote workplace hygiene measures. WorkSafeBC requires that employers develop a six-step COVID-19 Safety Plan that outlines the policies, guidelines, and procedures they have put in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
- Read the latest information. Stay informed with information from global and local health authorities like HealthLink BC, the BC Centre for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.
- Review your workplace benefits and leave policies. Make sure your employees know your policies and support systems to deal with medical situations like self-isolation or caring for a sick family member. Small Business BC’s Talk to An Expert Series offers practical guidance on these topics and more.
- Prevent the spread. Make sure your employees know what to do if a customer shows symptoms of COVID-19 or has had potential exposure to the virus.
6. Communicate with your clients.
Your customers will want to hear from you, and you’ll need to find ways to invite them back to your business. Get strategic with your marketing plan. Think about ways you can market your product or service – and stay ahead of your competitors.
- Verify your new hours and any new contact information. is consistent. Customers are learning about your business via multiple channels e.g. Google Maps, Google Search, Facebook, etc. In addition to your website, make sure that the information listed is up to date and accurate.
- Create a marketing plan. Just like you revised your business plan, this is a good time to reimagine how you market your business, and be ready to pivot if your focus has changed. Think about the best ways you can highlight your competitive advantage, and get your message out.
- Do an audit of your marketing assets. Review what’s worked for you in the past (photos, videos, print and digital ads, email campaigns) and determine how you can make it work for you going forward. Be sure your messaging is consistent, clear and positive.
- Get active on social media. With a tight budget, incorporating social media into your marketing campaign is one of the best ways to reinforce or amplify your messaging.
- Give your current website an overhaul (and if you don’t have one, create one): In addition to Shopify, WooCommerce, and Squarespace, check out easy website builders like Wix or Weebly for a cost-effective way to maximize your online presence. Make sure you:Research, Look at what your competitors are doing, for example.
- Make it easy to contact your business.
- Add an easy to find FAQ that explains changes to your business due to Covid-19 disruption; and
- Update any images, information or other details that don’t reflect the reality your customers are experiencing today. You want to communicate that you emphasize with their experience and that you’re doing your best to service them.
You can do this
While we don’t know how COVID-19 will play out over the coming months or years, you’re not in this alone. We’ve created a helpful list of local resources that wake up every day aiming to help you succeed. Have a look below. In addition, reach out to your network of peers, advisors and other industry experts to find out what approaches are working they’re taking and learn from their successes. They want to see your small business succeed too.
Helpful links and resources
Here are a number of local business resources to help guide you through these trying times.
General COVID-19 information
- The CommUNITY Centre (COVID-19 resources for Vancity members and British Columbians)
BC’s economic recovery plan
Support for business owners who have lost income due to COVID-19
Support for rent
Financing support for your business
- Vancity’s Unity Pivot Business Loan: provides up to $150,000 to businesses looking to pivot their product or service in light of COVID-19
- Vancity’s Bridge Loan: provides up to 10% of the small business’s earnings from the previous year up to $10,000
- Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan: a series of initiatives to provide financial assistance to Canadian businesses
- Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA): interest-free loans for small businesses
- Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP): If you need a large-scale loan to finance key expenses, these government loans could help
Payroll support for struggling businesses.
- Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy: for businesses suffering a 15% or more decline in revenue because of the pandemic
- Temporary 10% Wage Subsidy: a three-month measure allowing eligible employers to reduce the amount of payroll deduction required to be remitted to the CRA
- Work Sharing program: a program that helps employers and employees avoid layoffs when there is a temporary decrease in business activity that’s not within the employer’s control
Small business resources
- Canada Business App: Small business BC advisors are ready to help, Mon-Fri (8 am to 6 pm) and Saturdays (10 am to 4 pm) toll free at 1-833-254-4357 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
- COVID-19 Business Resilience Network: Canadian Chamber of Commerce
- Resources for businesses affected by COVID-19: BC Chamber of Commerce
- Business links and resiliency webinar series: Greater Vancouver Board of Trade
- COVID-19 Small Business Help Centre: Canadian Federation of Independent Business
- Small business marketplace: A place to promote your small business
This article is part of a Vancity series to help breakdown and explain COVID-19 economic stimulus measures and other forms of financial assistance for individuals and families, businesses, and investors – so they can endure and thrive during these difficult times.
- What COVID-19 economic aid means for your business
- How businesses can negotiate with their landlords during the COVID-19 crisis
- COVID-19 Economic stimulus package for families and individuals
- 7 money-saving strategies and relief measures for your real-life needs